• Sandvick Architects

History of the Tower Press Building in Cleveland



Originally built in 1907 and located on Superior Ave on the east side of downtown Cleveland, the Tower Press building is recognized as the first reinforced concrete structure in Cleveland. It was designated a Cleveland Landmark on September 10, 1976, and put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 before being restored into mixed-use and residential units.



About the H. Black & Company

The Tower Press building was originally a garment factory for H. Black & Company, which were most well-known for producing "Wooltex" coats and suits, aiding Cleveland in being one of the top national garment centers among New York City and Chicago.


The Black family first started their business producing ready-to-wear clothing in their home. In 1874, the Black Garment Factory was established and in 1907, they moved from Cleveland's old garment district to their new factory located on Superior Avenue, and what is today known as Tower Press. The Black family made this move because owner H. Black believed that "factories should not only be efficient but also attractive and pleasant working places."


The Tower Press building was designed at a time when the needs and comforts of workers were very first being considered.⁠ Built in 1907, the building is one of the earliest attempts to develop a dignified design for an industrial building.⁠ Its large ornamented water tower exhibits the extended effort of both owner and architect working together to give the building both a physical and functional beauty.⁠

New York City architect Robert D. Kohn sought to revolutionize factory working conditions and together with H. Black designed a building that was "built of exactly the same materials as a dozen other within a radius of a few miles... the difference is that in this building an attempt has been made to use these same materials with skill, taste, and affection."


The building reflects the era’s heightened attention to lighting and ventilation. Kohn’s design was an attempt to use common materials with skill, taste, and affection. His design approach was to produce “proper healthful working conditions” and he felt that “intelligent thought given to the life of an employee while in the establishment and even the beautification of his surroundings during that period may be demonstrated to be of great economic importance as the handling of raw material.”


H. Black encouraged Kohn’s design theory and Tower Press expressed exquisite masonry, interior wall decoration, and overall artistic treatment of the factory as expressed in the water tower. These additional beautification efforts were low-cost pleasures.



Restoration of Tower Press Building

The building closed as a garment factory in 1922 and the property was eventually sold to the Evangelical Church. Evangelical Press took over the building in 1928 and briefly renamed it the Evangelical Building, where they housed the church’s general offices through the early 1940s.


By 1936, the building had been renamed Tower Press after Tower Press Inc., a letter press-printing company that was a publishing house of the Evangelical Church; occupying the building until the 1950s.


From the 1940s to the 1970s multiple tenants and various companies occupied the building, including clothing-related firms, printing firms, offices, the Great Lakes College and Clinic, art studios, and furniture companies. The building had been vacant since 1987. It was designated a Cleveland Landmark on September 10, 1976, and was put on the National Register of Historic Places on January 24, 2002. Restoration of Tower Press was completed later in 2002.


Upon completion, Tower Press received two awards of excellence. You can view more project information on Tower Press here.


Best,

The Sandvick Team

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